Engineering Undergrads Solve Real-World Problems and Gain Practical Experience


DETROIT — Wayne State University College of Engineering students are solving complex problems — and uncovering potential cost savings — for automotive and health-care industry giants. As part of their senior capstone projects, Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering students worked closely with GM and Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital to discover more effective and efficient ways to do business.

Three student groups presented their projects to fellow students, the department chair and senior faculty members, industry partners and the dean of the College of Engineering.   

One group, made up of students Samuel Parayil, Justin Lens, Daniel Ribant and Lauren Weiss, worked with Henry Ford Health System industrial engineer Tara Danneffel to identify and reduce non-value-added activities by health-care practitioners in an effort to further maximize direct patient care time at the hospital.

The students spent four consecutive weeks observing the work activities of registered nurses, clinical coordinators, health care workers and mid-level providers. Based on collected data they found that these practitioners were spending 20-30 percent of their time on direct patient care such as discussing the plan of care with patients and families, teaching patients about their condition or medications, etc. It was recognized that many additional tasks prevented them from devoting more time to patient care.

The group then determined value-added activities, mixed value- and non-value-added activities, and non-value-added activities. They found that by minimizing non-value-added activities by 10 percent and minimizing mixed value- and non-value-added activities by 10 percent, they could essentially fund one more full-time nurse. Reducing non-value-added time would not only positively impact direct patient care at the hospital, but also would reduce the “hassles” practitioners encounter every day and make their job more valuable.

“Our capstone project with Henry Ford has been a wonderful experience for us as a group,” Parayil said. “We wanted to get a feel for how engineers fit into the health-care industry and were pleasantly surprised by the whole experience. We were able to apply different engineering principles to the hospital setting and learned a few new ones from direct interaction with professionals there. Henry Ford West Bloomfield is an exceptional hospital, working with cutting-edge technology, and our team was honored to work with them.”

“Since opening, Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital has scored in the 99th percentile for patient satisfaction as compared to other Michigan Hospitals,” Danneffel said. “Just imagine what we can do using this data to guide us in making further improvements to enhance patient care. We were thrilled to work directly with this Wayne State student group, as the results of their efforts will lead to direct changes at our hospital. We are grateful for our continued relationship with Wayne State and its students.”

This group received the Best Senior Capstone Project 2008-2012 Award for its efforts – the first award of its kind given by ISE.

“The team earned this award for their exemplary implementation of project management skills,” said Dean Pichette, ISE senior lecturer and capstone project advisor. “The students worked effectively as a team, with their sponsor, and with the people with whom they interfaced at the hospital. Their interim project review with the CEO at the hospital was not only well received, but he also planned on implementing the team’s suggestions.”

Two other groups, working directly with GM, presented their capstone projects as well.

Students Fares Alsakkaf, Adel Ferid, James Loewen and Paul Mukhtar provided a plan for GM that might save $1.2 million per year in stamping costs by using math modeling techniques to optimize reuse of scrap and nesting of stampings. They reached this conclusion after an extensive process that included visiting a Lordstown, Ohio Chevy Cruze manufacturing plant, weighing the cost of outsourcing, tracking overall scrap parts and identifying areas of possible improvement for those parts.

Finally, students Thomas Miller, Nichole Gilbert, Ben Wojcik and AbuBaker Mohammad worked with GM to develop a mathematical model to optimize the global supply chain for two major subsystems of the Cruze, which is assembled around the world. This model could assist GM in planning its global supplier footprint by determining the optimal number and location of suppliers for a given part.

“At Wayne State University, our undergraduate students have the opportunity to work on real-world projects such as the ones demonstrated by ISE students during their capstone course,” said College of Engineering Dean Farshad Fotouhi. “It was an honor for me to listen to their findings and hear how these hands-on projects add to the students’ overall educational experience here at Wayne State. I congratulate them on a job well done and thank our industry partners for giving their time and guidance to make these projects possible.”